Space Spy

By: Guest Reviewer

On: November 20th, 2009

Space Spy

[This is a guest review and interview by Fuzz.]

“I don’t remember my line…
Snow snowball dreams ghosts white ele (elegy) stripes…
Talk with eyeball in the bed…
Mental station…
I passionately like how helicopter flies under the eye nerve…
Undercarriage of the airplane, which looks like the blood vessels…
Am I not healthy?
On the aviation field planes fly away one by one…
This story of the broken equilibrium is about a guy, who was in the psychward, but once flew away…
My art does not suck…”

Space Spy is a puzzle game by Vasily Zotov, the creator of Quite Soulless. It is a series of 5 vignettes set in and around the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. What starts off with a seemingly innocuous shot of keys dropping into the sewers escalates into an adventure of epic scale featuring the hypnotization of police officers, 8-sided eyeballs in psychiatric wards, a romance between an actress and a yeti, and the destruction of a courtroom by a fascist with a rocket launcher. And all the while the crazy director Canavati is watching you…

The graphics can hardly be considered “good” by any stretch of the imagination, but they are fascinating in an eerie, surreal sort of way. An IGF judge described Zotov’s art style as “so amazingly complex and interesting that it’s almost ‘folk art’”. The models and backgrounds are obviously very amateur, but they have a certain charm and atmosphere to them which would just not be quite the same if they were more polished.

The gameplay primarily consists of puzzles involving various objects being pushed to certain coordinates on a grid. The solutions are often quite obscure, but the developer includes a walkthrough for each level within the game so there’s no need to fret about how to complete a particular section. The lack of sound and extremely slow movement were the only real barriers to my enjoyment of this wonderfully insane creation, but neither of those are major problems. Those who must consistently be absorbing sounds can just listen to their own music, and slow movement, while annoying, didn’t particularly bother me.

Vasily Zotov released his magnum opus, Quite Soulless, about a year ago as shareware, but this game is free. You can view the trailer here and play the game online or offline here.

Hit the jump for an interview with the creator, Vasily Zotov:

Interview with Vasily Zotov

[Some names and dates have been censored. -Ed.]

TIGSource: How did you decide to make your own independent games?

Vasily Zotov: I did not decide. Usually I had the unemployment issues (russian police and medical community is doing a good job to deliver your medical history to absolutely anybody who showed any interest to it), then, you know, you have no idea what you should do and can’t quite find a job and have a lot of time, and sometimes just to help myself psychologically I painted (so I painted a lot), and then created the collections of paintings and then that was quite similar already to the quest games, such a kind of evolution of the series of pictures.

TIGS: Both of your games have a very distinctive art style, is this intentional or is this just the way that was easiest for you?

VZ: I would not quite agree. My art is pretty much RETRO styled, and it’s difficult to recognize those old styles, you know like in the game ‘Lighthouse’ (1994, Sierra), ‘wise to the old ways’ (It is being said there by the character of Lyril).

Quite Soulless

For example I thought pretty much if the picture ‘DOJ / cross’ which overall compares the methods Department of Justice plays with people with the ideas of Adolf Hitler would suit the art style of ‘Myst – 1’ and I wanted it to be not only lookalike the picture
from Myst-1, but it should also have some sense of Berlin-1943, which is never happening in Myst-1.

It creates this atmosphere of closed society (which the United States of America turned to be) and the feelings of unexperienced refugee, who does not quite know yet that the whole system of Department of Justice will be turned against him and Homeland Security agents will try to find any way, even not legal to escort person out of the country so it would look like it is legal, the judges for real never listen to such testimonies and the whole idea of the system of justice is to make something up against the refugee because he is usually socially disfunctional and pulls the economy of the United States back.

I was suffering pretty much of infection on the left hand, which was the theatrical trauma (and which the ridiculous american psycho doctors seem to try to use now against me like those were the suicidal hesitation cuts, word ‘suicide’ is mention in the Chapter 3 of Space Spy
, so I want you not to judge that much the quality of my picture, but I would say overall I enjoyed the result.

Kodak Theater Picture is also Myst graphics styled

And the lunatic asylum picture is dedicated to the arcade games of the early nineties.

TIGS: The imagery in your games is quite surreal and unnerving. Is this intentional?

VZ: Horror / thriller is a lucrative field, in my opinion this way you will have more audience than with documentary. If your life on the scales, audience matters. And if not, too.

TIGS: How did you decide on the titles for your games? They don’t seem to have very much connection to the actual content.

VZ: Title Quite Soulless was created like that: I had the list of possible titles (something about 50, I wrote it occasionally during the process the game was created, I picked this, because I felt it would also reflect the identity of the author). I mean if you would look on the cover art of DVD (back cover), there is an inscription ‘I am not insane’, and one of the patrons on the indiegamer forum said – Ha, look, this shows the the author mentally sick or had mental problems. I mean I did not publish the documents at the time(they may be found now at, the buttons on the left upper corner) and wrote that the game is fictious, anyway he could see.

TIGS: You seem to hold the view that walkthroughs are essential to properly play an adventure game; would it not make sense to make the puzzles more simple rather than forcing the player to use a walkthrough?
Did you spend a great deal of time planning out the story for either of your games, or did you just create it as you went along?

VZ: This is a good one, a good question. That is why I have a lot of complaints, what I am doing is trying to justify the set of pictures, I have in my head, and this has nothing to do with gameplay, for example. My games are suffering so far from that, you see I don’t plan and don’t develop specially, all of sudden I realize that I have this created and that created and this screenplay was written, but very often I don’t quite remember myself writing this, if you would ask me when I started to create this, when I finished, I would have nothing to tell you, usually I have no idea, this is not because I am a schizophrenic, and not because my game is casual, but because my creative process is casual, I write only because I have some words in my head, and I paint because I see the picture, I do not invent or develop, there is no such process.

I think this is usual, a lot of people create just like that, it is like some advanced improv theatrical technique.

TIGS: Are there any games that you’re particularly fond of, and that may have influenced the development of your own creations?

VZ: Myst, Broken Sword, LightHouse, Gabriel Knight, Beneath the Steel Sky, Dreamweb – I hope I have now some better feeling of composition because of them, I am not sure myself.

TIGS: What made you decide to switch from your own game engine to Unity?

VZ: I collected a lot of negative opinions about my engine and was low on funds, and I thought to drop the games, however I still had this timing issue (a lot of time and no money and I still wanted to get myself busy with something) and I downloaded the free tutorials for Unity (quite a reading, more than 200 pages of technical documentation), when I finished the reading, I decided that it would be sad not to use that to some advantage and I bought the cheapest license.

TIGS: Why did you make space spy available for free rather than shareware like your previous game?

VZ: Nobody wanted the previous game, so I thought may be somebody will play this one free.

And also… This one was first published as ‘in-browser’ game with possible iPhone and other OS extensions, so I did not know how I would collect the money from browser, that is why this one was delivered free.

TIGS: Have their been any events from your own life that have influenced your games?

VZ: Space Spy is the autobiographical issue (however it is still a fictious art, because everything (names, events) is usually slightly shifted literally and in time).

I am working now on the 6th chapter of Space Spy which takes place in the Los Angeles Disrict Court on the cross road of the 6th and Olive, ##th floor, court room U, the ddth of February 2010, XX:XXpm, this is the real time of my court session, I thought also to give the fictious judge the name of my real judge B., the character will be the juridical bitch, who does not show any respect to the court sessions, who professionally buries people, who’s decisions are predictable and out of any deviation and court statistics (she decides everything in the interests of the government, such a government helper, no matter what is the case about) and I thought may be why not to remove judge B. from this court room and not to spend crazy government payrolls on her and to put there some automated system which would solve all the cases in the interest of the Federal Government no matter what the law is.

If somebody directly asked B. if the court session is really necessary or it’s better just to kick the refugee asses out, and if more importantly we would be able to make B. answer the truth, I would think the answer would be ‘No’ for the court sessions, ‘Yes’ to kick asses.

I would say I have to allege that the Department of Justice humiliates the justice, when it places people like B. in the court room, this is what fictious art of Chapter 6 would be about.

By the way returning to the art styles question I am thinking like could I create the picture in the ‘Broken sword-1’ (Revolution – 1994) style. Time will show.

TIGS: Do you have any plans for future games, apart from new levels for Space Spy?

VZ: I see here 2 screenplays – one for ‘Refugee’ title – I supposed to completely switch from some mystery to the detective genre with a line of the fictious romance, I would pick the story from Space Spy – Episode 2 and will start from there to go to the opposite direction. (however it is the initial plan, if I would follow it I might change everything at some point half way there)

Another screenplay – is for ‘Space Spy-2’, it will start from the point Space Spy-1 is finished, some more mystery Los Angeles sketches, more about the life of actors and homeless, something I am familiar with, dirty laundries, infection, hills, Amtrak trains, what is going wrong on the sets, and some fictious element (let say 30%) – as the way to some mystery, skipping on reality (I would think some parallel world / parallel Los Angeles issue ).

There is a good chance, I will be detained before I would start the third project, so if it happened, I would ask somebody to proceed following this my directions, in my opinion you may receive a good game, following this.

TIGS: What do you make of the newly popular trend of treating games as an art form?

VZ: I am the different bee, I mean my literacy sucks, anyway I wanted to create story, and I hate to be an artist (but I am capable of that), the games are my only window to literacy. I wanted to be a writer and was not capable of, may I say my games are not an art but this BRIDGE.

Space Spy was supposed to be happening in the space in the parallel world, but all of sudden I immigrated to the US and the storyline moves to the US, and now look…

the title still fits. There are a couple of casual contacts among the actors who told me that I may be the KGB spy because I have some accent and I’m spooky/creepy.

TIGS: I understand that you’ve recently moved to Hollywood from Russia, how has this transition been for you?

VZ: I had the incident in the local russian police, which turned to the fact that ddth of December and ddth of December I spent in the mental hospital and on the ddth of December, 2008 I appeared to be in the US embassy, and on the ddth of December I was in Los Angeles International airport, I would say I felt lucky at the moment because those 3 days were in the row and if somebody else told me this I would never believe myself, and I also a couple of times had this bright memory of the chief doctor of Psych-##, Moscow, who is absolutely lookalike the general Crantz from the ‘Prison break’.

I was very poor, and it is the negative side of the memories, I would say I did not spend enough time to prepare myself to break, it was casually, I would make a lot differently now, though I am 10 years the mental hospitals patient (with diagnosis of schizophrenia) and I had an idea to escape to another country I would say since an year of 2005.

TIGS: On the Indiegamer forums you mentioned that you were held in custody and tortured by the Russian authorities, how did this happen?

VZ: Yes, I would say I was held somewhat about 20 times in custody, because of ‘unappropriate behavior’, in fact if you are claimed as a mental hospital patient in Russia, you appear from that moment on in all the electronical systems, and human rights can not be applied to you anymore, for last ten years I did not have the right to manage the property, to initiate the hearings in the russian court, to drive the car, I would say I had less rights than a dog.

I am quite popular among the local police, one episode of torture was performed by the colonel N. (who is the chief of the fraud department), the issue was about the experimental video equipment, I installed. They wanted to get my signature under the document I did not want to sign. When it turned out that they can’t make me sign by violence, they made the fraud of my signature, I tried to complain later to the General Attorney Office, but I was not eligible for the complaints.

Also I loved to try to initiate the criminal processes against the medical doctors who under the threat of violence drugged me, caused the physiological pain and made me sign that I will stay in the isolation ward because of my own will, but of course my complaints were always ignored like the lunatic writings should be.

One time I found the ally in the Ministry of Culture of Russia, there was a person (leutenant – colonel of police S., he tried to send me back behind the walls of the isolation ward, this ally helped me to stop and even reverse the process, that was the only time the police representative seem to be suffering because of his own juridical activities).

Funny that I showed once in October 2009 in the US the very unappropriate hand job (figurine from fingers) to one actress, because she took away the prop from my scene and made fun out of me, and I was fired because of that, but that what I did was in my opinion reasonable (come on, that’s only the figurine from fingers), I was fired for that, I don’t blame the casting directors, it was just some… well, situation.

In Russia, I would do some time in custody considering my history, under the described circumstances, definitely.

TIGS: How do you make money apart from sales of Quite Soulless?

VZ: I know some rare eastern languages, I may do translations, also I do a lot of background and other work for films and live events.

TIGS: You’ve expressed an interest in acting, and you’ve posted two videos of yourself rehearsing (here and here); have you been able to find much work in this field?

VZ: Yes, I managed to remember those 2 – theatrical angle of camera ( something like CSI Miami Season 1 a little bit, but without colors ) I am doing a lot of background work, however, if you don’t have social security number you will never get for example into Central Casting, as I can understand I am not eligible for the most unions of actors. On different occasions they admitted my voice.

Definitely casting directors will not admit to commercials, where the money are.

What was the most interesting?

The prize of the best clown for the character of the choreographical clown with the ball – they helped me to develop a couple of dance moves, I recently received it from one (I would not name it, I feel like they may not call back if I would) of the most popular national amusement parks (this was the contest).

Yes, this was also the great job, I booked the role of terrorist-bomber, they auditioned me and liked, I mean, I am jumpy, and a good runner (they did not even know I am a refugee ), what it was about I delivered the bomb to the hotel lobby in Irvine and it went off, I was standing there in the grass and mud… Perfect!

There are a lot of student movies, those are usually NO PAY

Usually I put on the resume only something where I feel they spend camera time on me.

I am registered with LA casting.

For a day in background you may make up to $60, for 4 hours $40 / cash, everything is illegal, prizes are big, this is a lot of money if your daily expenses (including housing) are less than $17, I am doing overall good considering more work from translations.

I want to work more (I mean, in this field).

TIGS: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the world at large?

VZ: Yes, I mean I wanted to say that look at me. I was miserable, all property I had the crappy scratchy laptop, outlook of which scared a lot of people, tooth brush, mug and a couple of changes of clothes – such a BAG. I was sitting, crying on the streets, and I thought if I would drop this bag to the trash bin may be I would be even happier, and now… look…

Yesterday I did not bring my laptop to the set (I was a church goer in the movie). This was because I was afraid that somebody may steal it. I got some valuable things while I was making Space Spy. Games bring me IDENTITY. I mean I don’t have now to discuss this only question ‘Can I go home?’ while I am tied to the mental hospital bed. Judge B., Director M., XXX representative J. S., officer ### (who did not provide with his name), this guard in Anaheim Immigration and Naturalization… I mean they took away my right of employment and they took their chances, taking 9 months of my life away, and I suffered from infection and I lost almost all my equipment while I was homeless, but now… You see… the 6th last chapter of Space Spy is almost done and I did not die. And it will give them some exposure. I mean anybody may type in the google let say M. or B.. I mean juridical and medical criminals finally will be binded to their crimes. And where they supposed to go from that. And somebody with power may simply take them away, because it is ridiculous that such people could represent justice. And I may be the illusional paranoid, but that is what they tell, and I am very believable and they have stolen some documents in April, 2009, but I still have some more documents they did not manage to steal.

Vasily Zotov

  • cigarettes

    whoa. that is an intense interview.

  • Fuzz

    hey, Derek, could you edit in the urls of vasily’s acting videos? they should be in the interview I initially posted, but they’re also on his YouTube channel. also, the links to the pictures of the suicide level are broken, you might want to fix that. thanks for posting this!

  • !CE-9

    I’ve read a thread somewhere about Zotov’s anguish in the pursuit of recognition, and I’m very happy for this stuff, congrats to him.

  • falsion

    oh my, it’s this guy again.

  • falsion

    it’s funny (or perhaps sad) how the actual guy himself is more interesting than any of the games he’s make.

  • falsion


  • nik

    Vasily I sincerily hope you make it big.
    You are very very indie, and have got some very real stuff to tell the world about.

    And I’m sure you will.

  • pleb

    zotov is a hero. i hope he’s an igf finalist

    why were the names and dates censored? it reads like he went to a lot of effort to name everyone

  • Marcus

    Zotov comes across as a complete lunatic in English. I feel the interview is just offered as comedy, “hey, look how crazy this guy is!” Maybe he does have psychological problems, or maybe he’s been through some serious problems with Russian authorities and US immigration – I have no idea, because nothing of what he said makes the slightest sense. I think it’s disrespectful to present what he said like this. Just because he’s horrible at English doesn’t mean he’s 100% crazy. I think it would have been better to have him answer in Russian, and then have somebody competent in both languages translate it.

  • fuzz

    @ Marcus:
    I didn’t attempt to present Vasily as a lunatic, or crazy.
    He seems to me like a really amazing person who has just had trouble dealing with a whole lot of problems. He normally converses in English I believe, as he currently lives in the US and so does not speak Russian as often as he used to. He also tends to present his current situation in this way (English) in forums and on his youtube videos (read the description of the first trailer of space spy if you’d like an example). I’m just a guest reviewer and I don’t know any Russian at all, so it would be difficult to deal with this. Besides, his games are in English.

    I apologize to both you and Vasily if this interview comes off as an exploitation of him, but that was most definitely not my intent.

  • fuzz

    also: the names and dates were censored because i expected there might be some difficulties for tigsource involved if they were not, and vasily agreed when i asked him if this was okay.

  • Marcus

    Fuzz, I did read his thread at indiegamer and I think he’s a potentially very interesting person, but it’s hard to tell what with how crazy he sounds in English. That’s exactly the reason I think it’d be really nice to get to know what it is he’s really trying to say. I want to be able to tell whether any of the stuff he’s saying makes sense or if he’s just completely mad. I’m not asking you to learn Russian to do the interview, but this is the Internet, it can’t be that hard to find somebody who can speak both Russian and English.

  • fuzz

    i think you sort of just have to get past the broken english to really understand what he’s saying. for example: his description of his development process is really fascinating and beautiful, but it just takes a bit of effort to get his meaning.

    in other news: a different russian indie developer linked to this interview on their blog, complaining that it was not in russian!

  • nik

    well the text is kinda train of thought stylo, and broken.

    But for me as a non-native english speaker it communicates quite clearly:
    not only has the author gone through some bloodchilling Kafka stuff, he’s also very impulsive and a bit crazy.

    to fuzz: Is this correct?

  • fuzz

    @ nik: i imagine you are mostly correct, but if you’d like to know more about him, you can just send vasily an email, his email address is on the space spy website.

  • Guy

    I believe he mentioned schizophrenia. Which is an incurable disease. Many schizophrenic people are unable to manage a normal life. It is a really sad story overall. But he managed to survive somehow.

  • fuzz

    apparently he was diagnosed with schizophrenia when in russia, but then saw a doctor in the us later and it was shown that he did not have it?

    there are some documents about it here:

  • Jad


    I didn’t understand everything, this guy seems to do everything he does in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way, changing topics suddenly and, as he says himself, even develops games without much of a plan, just expressing the visions in his mind.


    Anyway I felt touched by this but I can’t really say why.

  • falsion

    Broken English or not, the things this guy says are kind of scary. I can understand broken English. I mean, I know a lot of people who don’t speak good English. That’s understandable.

    But a guy talking about all this bizarre, scary stuff happening to him like the government being out to kill or torture him. I mean, that’s different from broken English. You can’t tell me that he’s saying that just because he’s not a native speaker. There’s more to it than that. And yes, I think he did mention “schizophrenia” which is probably part of it.

  • falsion

    It’s not just this interview either. I wouldn’t go blaming TIGSource. This guy is pretty open to discussing this kind of stuff anywhere. I remember someone commenting on his YouTube video asking if he was single (or something really innocuous like that) and he said that the government forced him into chemical castration and made sure he cannot reproduce.

    I guess this guy is pretty intense though. I have to admit.

  • Fuzz

    A comment I made here before wasn’t posted because it included a link, but apparently Vasily was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he lived in Russia, but later on an American doctor checked him out and concluded that he had no mental diseases (you can find some documents about this on the space spy site where it says making the documents)

  • Marcus

    re falsion: “But a guy talking about all this bizarre, scary stuff happening to him like the government being out to kill or torture him. I mean, that’s different from broken English.”

    Sure, maybe that just means he’s crazy, but if he actually went through that kind of stuff, he might not sound crazy talking about it in his native tongue.

  • falsion

    I don’t know. Still sounds pretty far out there to me. And the chemical castration thing, and the other disturbing stuff he’s mentioned. Even if it did sound not as crazy, it’s still pretty damn crazy.

  • Balls

    But why did the eyeball have to fornicate with the stove? It’s too weird to be erotic.

  • nobody2

    Nah, this dude really is nuts. Reading his “trolls” on the IGDA forums was entertaining, though. He’s unable to separate his crazy personal life and pity-me attitude to his professional work. You really should be encouraging him to get treatment, not fueling his autism by giving him publicity.

  • Paul Eres

    crazy or no he’s genuinely more talented than most indie devs, he just lacks polish or playability — but if he teamed up with someone who did those things well they’d have a masterpiece

  • nobody2

    Talent doesn’t mean much when you’re unable to understand criticism, due to lack of empathy. He’s already been told he’s talented a lot on the IGDA forums, but comments like that have just increased his victim complex. Eventually people realized that he was just a determined and headstrong guy, not really “talented”. His development skills will continue to be subpar until his mental health is corrected.

  • Paul Eres

    your internet psychologizing isn’t very impressive. you’d probably have thrown kafka, hemingway, etc. into mental institutions too

  • nobody2

    Even if this guy was a genius, genius isn’t a magical vaccine for mental illness. I see you don’t take it very seriously, though, or maybe your view on it is outdated. People get treated for mental illness like any other illness — it’s a common benefit on health insurance — no mental institutions involved.

  • Sergio

    I’m sorry, what proof is there that this man is mentally ill?

  • Fuzz

    In short- none.

  • judgespear

    “which turned to the fact that ddth of December and ddth of December I spent in the mental hospital and on the ddth of December, 2008”

    uh, were you paying attention to the interview at all?

  • Paul Eres

    i’d prefer not to be treated for any mental illness others see in me if i don’t agree with their assessment. unless *he* actually volunteers to be treated for mental illness, it’s involuntary. he does not want to be treated. so by saying he should be treated, the only interpretation is that you want to do it against his will, as was done to him against his will in russia. it’s that that i’m against.

    in other words, people being treated for mental illness is fine. but people being treated for mental illness just on the basis of what other people want done to you, even if they think they are helping you, is not fine.

  • fuzz

    and he has documents from an american doctor showing that he is not mentally ill; besides, i agree with paul, apart from those who might be a danger to society if not placed in a mental institution. vasily is clearly not one of them, even if he is mentally ill.

  • Nektonico

    I remember once in med school in a psychatry class, someone questioned the teacher as to whether people with autism / schizophrenia or other mental illnesses had a tendency to be more talented than (allegedly) sane artists; he simply answered that most of the time people interpret originality and something completely out of the ordinary (bizarre) as brilliant or as the product of true talent; it makes sense, and just takes some thought and knowledge to be able to tell the difference; of course, then you might have the rare person who does have talent and skill, and is as well batshit crazy (ok ok, lets be politically correct: has a mental ailment)

  • Paul Eres

    remember that it’s also possible that whatever little insanity he has was *caused* by the treatment he had forced on him in russia; sometimes the treatment to fend off mental disease itself is the primary cause of mental disease. if you lock me up for 10 years in a mental institution, no matter how otherwise sane i was already, i’d become a bit crazier for the experience.

  • Dinsdale

    I like this guy.

  • Rob

    I’m really growing to appreciate this guys work. I still consider it unplayable, but perhaps I haven’t spent enough time with it. Quite Soulless was confusing and felt inherently wrong – perhaps I just didn’t “get it”. Nevertheless, I love the retro faux 1990’s styling

    However, honestly, I can’t say that I believe everything that comes out of this guys mouth. There’s always some shock atrocity that’s been put upon him.

    Yes, he may be mentally ill, but there’s also the possibility he may also be a pathological liar. There are lots of them out there and being a crazy victim is great for publicity.

  • fuzz

    @ rob: are you oddbob?
    i’m pretty sure he’s real, he has documents on his site, from his emails he seems very honest, and his phone number is in the downloadable version of space spy, so you can call him if you want.

    i think what he’s doing game design-wise is quite brilliant, if unplayable to the masses.

  • daphny

    this is the best thing you’ve ever done tigsource

  • fuzz

    @ daphny: don’t worry i’m interviewing jazzuo next